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Starhawk Developer Lays Off 24 Employees, Refocuses to iOS

LightBox Interactive isn't shutting down, but it is changing direction.

Starhawk was the long rumored follow-up to Warhawk, and it didn't make much of a splash.

Rumblings of trouble at Austin-based Starhawk developer LightBox Interactive have been confirmed.

24 members of LightBox were told Friday would be their last day at the company, Lightbox president Dylan Jobe told me over email this evening. All 24 employees will receive a severance package.

“Layoffs suck,” he said, “but we're just shrinking our development team here at LightBox Interactive so we can be very nimble as we self-fund our next game and bring it to iOS devices.”

The first indications something was up at LightBox came via a traditional source for vague news statements: Twitter.

“And yeah, its time for another drink...” said Jobe.

Other members of Lightbox chimed in, suggesting a major change. These days, it’s easy to assume it’s layoffs.

Lightbox had signed a multi-year, multi-game publishing agreement with Sony, but that deal appears dead, perhaps related to the tepid response to Starhawk. Lightbox was forged from the ashes of Incognito Entertainment, which was responsible for Twisted Metal Black and War of the Monsters. Both of those were excellent, by the way.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by patrickklepek
Starhawk was the long rumored follow-up to Warhawk, and it didn't make much of a splash.

Rumblings of trouble at Austin-based Starhawk developer LightBox Interactive have been confirmed.

24 members of LightBox were told Friday would be their last day at the company, Lightbox president Dylan Jobe told me over email this evening. All 24 employees will receive a severance package.

“Layoffs suck,” he said, “but we're just shrinking our development team here at LightBox Interactive so we can be very nimble as we self-fund our next game and bring it to iOS devices.”

The first indications something was up at LightBox came via a traditional source for vague news statements: Twitter.

“And yeah, its time for another drink...” said Jobe.

Other members of Lightbox chimed in, suggesting a major change. These days, it’s easy to assume it’s layoffs.

Lightbox had signed a multi-year, multi-game publishing agreement with Sony, but that deal appears dead, perhaps related to the tepid response to Starhawk. Lightbox was forged from the ashes of Incognito Entertainment, which was responsible for Twisted Metal Black and War of the Monsters. Both of those were excellent, by the way.

Staff Online
Posted by Garfield518

If you're changing your focus to iOS games, you might as well shut down.

Posted by beard_of_zeus

That's a shame. I had a lot of fun with Starhawk, and they were (still, maybe?) putting out a decent amount of map DLC, all for free.

Posted by Ltwood12

I don't know if the response was lukewarm as much as there wasn't a response at all. Sony seems to be in the business of sending games to die in 2012. There was virtually no marketing push for this game, and a lot of people didn't know it had come out until weeks later. It's a shame. Lightbox seemed like an ambitious & capable group. They deserved better.

Posted by Abendlaender

"Starhawk was the long rumored follow-up to Starhawk"

Well....that seems like a good idea to me?

Posted by deathfromace

@Garfield518 said:

If you're changing your focus to iOS games, you might as well shut down.

Yup those little IOS games don't make a lot of money.....*sarcasm*

Edited by DJJoeJoe

@Garfield518 said:

If you're changing your focus to iOS games, you might as well shut down.

iOS games make a lot of money, and are cheap to make. It's an efficiency play and smart if you wanna stay alive.

Posted by JetForceGemini

That's too bad. At least they don't have to close for now.

Posted by TheHT

I got a bad feeling when they releaed the Starhawk single-player for free on PS+.

Posted by DrDarkStryfe

And the further contraction of the industry continues.

Posted by SSully

@DJJoeJoe: @deathfromace: They are cheap and profitable if you can break through and get recognized. There are plenty of devs out there who have made little to no money because the app store is saturated with thousands of other bullshit games.

Posted by FLStyle

@Abendlaender said:

"Starhawk was the long rumored follow-up to Starhawk"

Well....that seems like a good idea to me?

Ha!

Warhawk was awesome, I put many hours into it. Seems like they didn't realise what made it such a success though because Starhawk wasn't great. Glad to hear they're not closing down, which apparently was the rumour.

Posted by gel
"Starhawk was the long rumored follow-up to Starhawk, and it didn't make much of a splash." 
Who writes these captions??
Posted by msavo

Sad. They made quality games. Also while I just bought a new iPod Touch to play some games on, along with using it's many other functions, this iOS bubble has to pop sooner or later. I hope new consoles eclispe this whole mobile and free to play movement.

Posted by iDragon

I gotta say Starhawk flew(no pun intended) under my radar I did not even know that it was out until I checked after reading a bit of this article, did it get any decent advertising ?

Posted by safetake

Hey thanks for letting us know every time there are layoffs. Make sure to never tell me when companies are hiring, that way I think only bad things are happening all time. Awesome.

Posted by Bucketdeth

It's a fucking shame. Star Hawk, while a hit or a miss sometimes in multiplayer, had some intense combat and felt great. It feels like the only games Sony market are those developed by Naughty Dog, I feel this is a big reason for the cold response in terms of sales.

Posted by CrashTanuki

Way to ignore Warhawk when mentioning what Incog made before turning into Lightbox to make the sequel to that game. It's a shame that not enough people bought Starhawk despite being a fun game, so I guess it won't get the long tail of support that Warhawk got. Jerks.

Posted by PXAbstraction

@DJJoeJoe said:

@Garfield518 said:

If you're changing your focus to iOS games, you might as well shut down.

iOS games make a lot of money, and are cheap to make. It's an efficiency play and smart if you wanna stay alive.

iOS games are still relatively cheap to make for now but few of them make a lot of money. Angry Birds and the like are outliers and more and more, publishers are becoming necessary to get noticed in the mobile world. No one talks about it cause it's still the new hotness but mobile development is much like the rest of the industry. Some succeed, most fail. If LightBox couldn't find another AAA publishing deal, refocusing on something small that they can do with their remaining funds is a smart move. Self-funding it also means they're going to reap all the benefits if it takes off. But given that they had to lay off most of the company to make this happen, I'd say going iOS was a last resort and just making an iOS game is no guarantee whatsoever that you'll profit from it. I hope these guys can make a good go of it though.

Posted by Shaanyboi

@safetake said:

Hey thanks for letting us know every time there are layoffs. Make sure to never tell me when companies are hiring, that way I think only bad things are happening all time. Awesome.

Because most studios are ALWAYS hiring... sometimes it's just one job like 'BG designer' or 'receptionist', other times it's entire teams. That's not really news...

Posted by Phatmac

This sucks. Starhawk was a neat game that did some unique things like combine RTS building mechanics with third person shooter gameplay. At least they haven't closed down for good. :)

Posted by ch3burashka

While I won't dismiss iOS outright like some, going from Sony ~2nd party with multi-game deals to "focusing on iOS" doesn't instill confidence. Good luck to them and the lay-off-ees.

Posted by Itwastuesday

pour one out

they made good multiplayer shooters

Posted by SpudBug

Failed at the big leagues, time to go slum it in some pay to win games, hope anybody cares.

Edited by devilzrule27

So thats two independent studios who have been forced to downsize to IOS games this year after releasing Sony exclusive titles that got little to no marketing support from Sony. StarHawk and Twisted Metal were awesome games and it's a shame they didn't sell well because they got no help from Sony. Thats a fucking shame.

Posted by msavo

@PXAbstraction said:

@DJJoeJoe said:

@Garfield518 said:

If you're changing your focus to iOS games, you might as well shut down.

iOS games make a lot of money, and are cheap to make. It's an efficiency play and smart if you wanna stay alive.

iOS games are still relatively cheap to make for now but few of them make a lot of money. Angry Birds and the like are outliers and more and more, publishers are becoming necessary to get noticed in the mobile world. No one talks about it cause it's still the new hotness but mobile development is much like the rest of the industry. Some succeed, most fail. If LightBox couldn't find another AAA publishing deal, refocusing on something small that they can do with their remaining funds is a smart move. Self-funding it also means they're going to reap all the benefits if it takes off. But given that they had to lay off most of the company to make this happen, I'd say going iOS was a last resort and just making an iOS game is no guarantee whatsoever that you'll profit from it. I hope these guys can make a good go of it though.

I 100% agree and wonder when the new hotness for mobile development will fade. Even companies like Rovio, arguably one of the biggest mobile devs out there, have blatantly said that they aren't looking to their games as prime revenue sources rather making them a means to advertise merchandise. Pair that with users seeing through the bullshit and the mobile platform could burst or come to a stand still within the coming years.

The reason why most people on this site, and other "hardcore" gaming sites for lack of a better term, dismiss iOS games is that most of them are made to extract as much money from the user as possible. When you hear the terms used by developers of big iOS or mobile games in general, like referring to big spender users as whales :P, at some point you question whether they are making a fun game or an effective money sink. It's getting to the point where other iOS developers are promoting "no in-app purchases" as a selling point. Hopefully companies like Lightbox aren't putting all their eggs in the iOS basket because like you said, some succeed but most fail.

Posted by Least100Seraphs

iOS is the smart platform to move to at the moment. Dev costs are much, much lower than trying to compete with $60 titles in the current console/PC market.

A lot of iOS games are dismissed due to their pricing system, but you know what? A lot of console games these days are just as guilty of trying to extract as much money as possible. In-app purchases are very similar to the current console DLC structure, with day-one download content, locked on-disc content that you have to pay to use, as well as themes, avatar costumes and the like.

The newest big trend to catch on is the Season Pass. Pay for the game, and then pay to get access to a number of DLC packs - more often than not, full of content ready for day-one release.

It's hard to criticise Lightbox for looking at a low-overhead market. Costs for the traditional markets are so high that companies are now selling their games at $90 (disc + season pass) to make sure their game turns a profit.

Posted by msavo

@Least100Seraphs: Yup console games are gaining bad habits too. This is the perfect example of that middle tier developer who just gets squashed if their game doesn't sell 1 million+. You are either triple AAA with dlc and other hooks, a downloadable title or a mobile game. Sad days for gaming indeed.

Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

@msavo said:

@PXAbstraction said:

@DJJoeJoe said:

@Garfield518 said:

If you're changing your focus to iOS games, you might as well shut down.

iOS games make a lot of money, and are cheap to make. It's an efficiency play and smart if you wanna stay alive.

iOS games are still relatively cheap to make for now but few of them make a lot of money. Angry Birds and the like are outliers and more and more, publishers are becoming necessary to get noticed in the mobile world. No one talks about it cause it's still the new hotness but mobile development is much like the rest of the industry. Some succeed, most fail. If LightBox couldn't find another AAA publishing deal, refocusing on something small that they can do with their remaining funds is a smart move. Self-funding it also means they're going to reap all the benefits if it takes off. But given that they had to lay off most of the company to make this happen, I'd say going iOS was a last resort and just making an iOS game is no guarantee whatsoever that you'll profit from it. I hope these guys can make a good go of it though.

I 100% agree and wonder when the new hotness for mobile development will fade. Even companies like Rovio, arguably one of the biggest mobile devs out there, have blatantly said that they aren't looking to their games as prime revenue sources rather making them a means to advertise merchandise. Pair that with users seeing through the bullshit and the mobile platform could burst or come to a stand still within the coming years.

The reason why most people on this site, and other "hardcore" gaming sites for lack of a better term, dismiss iOS games is that most of them are made to extract as much money from the user as possible. When you hear the terms used by developers of big iOS or mobile games in general, like referring to big spender users as whales :P, at some point you question whether they are making a fun game or an effective money sink. It's getting to the point where other iOS developers are promoting "no in-app purchases" as a selling point. Hopefully companies like Lightbox aren't putting all their eggs in the iOS basket because like you said, some succeed but most fail.

Not really true seeing as more people own iPhones\iPods every year I last I checked Angry Birds has been in the top 10 for like 3 years now. And that game probably cost about 1000 dollars to make,

Edited by ShatterShock

I look forward to their future endless-running game.

Posted by Hangnail

@ShatterShock: Sadly, you may be right on the money with that.

Edited by CommanderZx2

Mobile gamers, the bane of real gamers, with their petty mini games.

Posted by LegendaryChopChop

~the future~

Posted by YukoAsho

@SpudBug said:

Failed at the big leagues, time to go slum it in some pay to win games, hope anybody cares.

Pretty much.

Oh, and I love the "Oh boo hoo, mid-sized devs can't make it!" talk while we have how many small-to-mid publishers making out here in the West by cultivating a strong niche? XSEED, Atlus, NISA, none of them are huge names, but can afford to publish because they're making smart decisions in the business room. They don't need to sell multi-millions to succeed, and are likely to be there once everyone else bleeds themselves dry trying to reach the gold ring of generic, photo-realistic shooter.

Posted by thehuntsmen5434

I bought Starhawk and was extremely disappointed. It was like they didn't even try to balance the game. They should have just made a 30 dollar multiplayer only Starhawk game instead. No one really buys Warhawk and Starhawk to play single player anyways. Hence why the single player campaign was free for Plus users recently.

Posted by xbob42

@Garfield518 said:

If you're changing your focus to iOS games, you might as well shut down.

As a respectable game developer? Sure. As a company looking to make money? Not quite.

Posted by dicnose

ios is the future just look at angry birds =)

Posted by SAC

@Bourbon_Warrior said:

@msavo said:

@PXAbstraction said:

@DJJoeJoe said:

@Garfield518 said:

If you're changing your focus to iOS games, you might as well shut down.

iOS games make a lot of money, and are cheap to make. It's an efficiency play and smart if you wanna stay alive.

iOS games are still relatively cheap to make for now but few of them make a lot of money. Angry Birds and the like are outliers and more and more, publishers are becoming necessary to get noticed in the mobile world. No one talks about it cause it's still the new hotness but mobile development is much like the rest of the industry. Some succeed, most fail. If LightBox couldn't find another AAA publishing deal, refocusing on something small that they can do with their remaining funds is a smart move. Self-funding it also means they're going to reap all the benefits if it takes off. But given that they had to lay off most of the company to make this happen, I'd say going iOS was a last resort and just making an iOS game is no guarantee whatsoever that you'll profit from it. I hope these guys can make a good go of it though.

I 100% agree and wonder when the new hotness for mobile development will fade. Even companies like Rovio, arguably one of the biggest mobile devs out there, have blatantly said that they aren't looking to their games as prime revenue sources rather making them a means to advertise merchandise. Pair that with users seeing through the bullshit and the mobile platform could burst or come to a stand still within the coming years.

The reason why most people on this site, and other "hardcore" gaming sites for lack of a better term, dismiss iOS games is that most of them are made to extract as much money from the user as possible. When you hear the terms used by developers of big iOS or mobile games in general, like referring to big spender users as whales :P, at some point you question whether they are making a fun game or an effective money sink. It's getting to the point where other iOS developers are promoting "no in-app purchases" as a selling point. Hopefully companies like Lightbox aren't putting all their eggs in the iOS basket because like you said, some succeed but most fail.

Not really true seeing as more people own iPhones\iPods every year I last I checked Angry Birds has been in the top 10 for like 3 years now. And that game probably cost about 1000 dollars to make,

yeah.... but how many ios games are "angry birds" status? draw something... words with friends... what else?

Posted by BlackLagoon

@SAC said:

yeah.... but how many ios games are "angry birds" status? draw something... words with friends... what else?

Heck, Draw Something isn't really Draw Something any more. That thing went away as quickly as it came...

Online
Posted by YukoAsho

@SAC said:

yeah.... but how many ios games are "angry birds" status? draw something... words with friends... what else?

This is what people don't get with iOS. It's not the gold mine people think it is, simply because of how fucking hard it is to get noticed in a sea of other $0.99 + microtransaction games there are. I'm reminded of young girls heading off to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune, only to end up down on their luck and trying to get a part in Throated 99: Throat Harder.

Posted by Bourbon_Warrior

@SAC said:

@Bourbon_Warrior said:

@msavo said:

@PXAbstraction said:

@DJJoeJoe said:

@Garfield518 said:

If you're changing your focus to iOS games, you might as well shut down.

iOS games make a lot of money, and are cheap to make. It's an efficiency play and smart if you wanna stay alive.

iOS games are still relatively cheap to make for now but few of them make a lot of money. Angry Birds and the like are outliers and more and more, publishers are becoming necessary to get noticed in the mobile world. No one talks about it cause it's still the new hotness but mobile development is much like the rest of the industry. Some succeed, most fail. If LightBox couldn't find another AAA publishing deal, refocusing on something small that they can do with their remaining funds is a smart move. Self-funding it also means they're going to reap all the benefits if it takes off. But given that they had to lay off most of the company to make this happen, I'd say going iOS was a last resort and just making an iOS game is no guarantee whatsoever that you'll profit from it. I hope these guys can make a good go of it though.

I 100% agree and wonder when the new hotness for mobile development will fade. Even companies like Rovio, arguably one of the biggest mobile devs out there, have blatantly said that they aren't looking to their games as prime revenue sources rather making them a means to advertise merchandise. Pair that with users seeing through the bullshit and the mobile platform could burst or come to a stand still within the coming years.

The reason why most people on this site, and other "hardcore" gaming sites for lack of a better term, dismiss iOS games is that most of them are made to extract as much money from the user as possible. When you hear the terms used by developers of big iOS or mobile games in general, like referring to big spender users as whales :P, at some point you question whether they are making a fun game or an effective money sink. It's getting to the point where other iOS developers are promoting "no in-app purchases" as a selling point. Hopefully companies like Lightbox aren't putting all their eggs in the iOS basket because like you said, some succeed but most fail.

Not really true seeing as more people own iPhones\iPods every year I last I checked Angry Birds has been in the top 10 for like 3 years now. And that game probably cost about 1000 dollars to make,

yeah.... but how many ios games are "angry birds" status? draw something... words with friends... what else?

I know that I was replying to someone that said Angry Birds doesn't make much money from the games.

Posted by MariachiMacabre
@safetake

Hey thanks for letting us know every time there are layoffs. Make sure to never tell me when companies are hiring, that way I think only bad things are happening all time. Awesome.

Giant Bomb isn't a fucking job search website for the industry. A company hiring also isn't newsworthy. A company laying off staff and abandoning console development for a while is.
Posted by RiotControl

It seems like Sony is slowly losing a lot of the first-party muscle. Though I guess when even their big guns don't sell as well as they hoped for, you can't expect them to keep around the lesser performing studios. I just liked the fact that they had a lot of awesome exclusives released every year even if all of them weren't 90+ rated games. Their exclusives have made the PS3 my platform of choice for the past almost 4 years now.

Posted by jamesisaacs

@MariachiMacabre said:

@safetake

Hey thanks for letting us know every time there are layoffs. Make sure to never tell me when companies are hiring, that way I think only bad things are happening all time. Awesome.

Giant Bomb isn't a fucking job search website for the industry. A company hiring also isn't newsworthy. A company laying off staff and abandoning console development for a while is.

For people looking for work it is.

Posted by MariachiMacabre
@jamesisaacs

@MariachiMacabre said:

@safetake

Hey thanks for letting us know every time there are layoffs. Make sure to never tell me when companies are hiring, that way I think only bad things are happening all time. Awesome.

Giant Bomb isn't a fucking job search website for the industry. A company hiring also isn't newsworthy. A company laying off staff and abandoning console development for a while is.

For people looking for work it is.

Then they're looking on the wrong site. That has never been a function of this site and it never should be. If you want a job in the industry, you go onto the sites of companies that actually make games, not review sites.
Posted by Winterstrike

@DrDarkStryfe said:

And the further contraction of the industry continues.

Yeah...

Edited by jamesisaacs

@MariachiMacabre said:

@jamesisaacs

@MariachiMacabre said:

@safetake

Hey thanks for letting us know every time there are layoffs. Make sure to never tell me when companies are hiring, that way I think only bad things are happening all time. Awesome.

Giant Bomb isn't a fucking job search website for the industry. A company hiring also isn't newsworthy. A company laying off staff and abandoning console development for a while is.

For people looking for work it is.

Then they're looking on the wrong site. That has never been a function of this site and it never should be. If you want a job in the industry, you go onto the sites of companies that actually make games, not review sites.

A quick news update on a gaming site about a game studio recruiting is only a good thing considering gaming is a hobby for most of the employees in that industry. Whether or not giantbomb isn't a recruitment site doesn't matter, what matters is the point i made which still stands. I'm looking for a job and if a review site posted an article about some studios recruiting that would be swell out of the blue, every little helps.

Edited by Scrawnto

@jamesisaacs said:

@MariachiMacabre said:

Then they're looking on the wrong site. That has never been a function of this site and it never should be. If you want a job in the industry, you go onto the sites of companies that actually make games, not review sites.

A quick news update on a gaming site about a game studio recruiting is only a good thing considering gaming is a hobby for most of the employees in that industry. Whether or not giantbomb isn't a recruitment site doesn't matter, what matters is the point i made which still stands. I'm looking for a job and if a review site posted an article about some studios recruiting that would be swell out of the blue, every little helps.

Are they supposed to note every job listing every developer puts out? There's a huge difference between mass layoffs and individual employment opportunities. How are they even supposed to hear about game studios recruiting? Is Tricky supposed to watch the Gamasutra listings or something? That would be a poor use of their time.

Posted by laserbolts

Damn never like reading news like this. Hopefully those people can bounce back from this.

Posted by J12088

@Shaanyboi said:

@safetake said:

Hey thanks for letting us know every time there are layoffs. Make sure to never tell me when companies are hiring, that way I think only bad things are happening all time. Awesome.

Because most studios are ALWAYS hiring... sometimes it's just one job like 'BG designer' or 'receptionist', other times it's entire teams. That's not really news...

And people are getting fired every single fucking day. It's not news either. It's a fact of life if you have a job there is always a risk that one day you may not have that job anymore.

If a studio shuts down by all means report it. But i agree with safetake give this shit a rest already. It's not news and it's boring to see the usual 15 year olds run to the comments and either post how much the economy sucks and/or blindly go off on people cause they didn't seem simpathetic enough about people losing there jobs.

Welcome to the real fucking world.

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